Andy Wyman reports on the clothes-optional viewing in Central London
Travelling through Whitechapel and stopping at Mayfair can be a risky business if you're playing Monopoly. We didn't collect our £200 but gained a wonderful afternoon at the Herrick Gallery in Mayfair where property prices start at several million for a built in wardrobe. The event was the book launch of Naked Britain, the wonderful art book produced by Amelia Allen. Amelia is 'one of us', a BN member, who we first met at Nudefest in 2016. She kindly gave us a lift back from a trip to the Cider Brandy Factory and it was then that we saw her portfolio of naturists. It was a really impressive set of photographs and we loved the idea of being involved. The next day we had our photographs taken by Amelia in the great setting of the Haynes Motor Museum near Yeovil.
Fast forward to November and the book has been launched in the prestigious Herrick Gallery. Today was a clothes optional event which is always a slightly worrying title. Does that mean three of us naked with the general public treating us as oddities? Well that's not how it turned out. The place was packed with around 75 of us and nearly everyone was stripped within minutes of arriving. We were in one of the most expensive shopping roads in the world, Piccadilly, and the gallery made no effort to cover the huge window at the front. Did the crowds stop and look in... yes! Were they shocked and alarmed...... not enough to call the police and a hundred yards down the street there were four large police vans full of the Met's finest. In fact lots of ordinary members of the public felt free enough to come in and look - some of them took off their clothes too…
A selection of Amelia's work was on display around the gallery. Her work was all black and white prints, which seemed if anything to enhance the quality of the shots. From a naturist point of view we were portrayed superbly and sympathetically. After the treatment we have had from some in the media this felt just right. Yes, the wrinkles and blemishes were there but we don't concern ourselves with that. You could also see the sense of fun from the subjects and real beauty as well that needed no airbrushing. Amelia has the ability to portray people in a natural way so they feel good about themselves without employing any tricks. From a personal point of view the smile she captured of Patti (my wife) was better than in any of the thousands of photographs I have taken.
The event was great fun with an endless supply of prosecco and nibbles. Lots of us after buying a copy of the book went around getting others to sign their pages. We all felt like minor film stars! Amelia was the busiest of all writing long dedications in the front of numerous copies. She was her normal bubbly self alongside her Mum and Gran! It was lovely to hear that Amelia enjoyed the occasion so much and would love to do something else like it in the naturist world. Some of her friends there enjoyed it so much they were talking about going to Alton Towers.
I wondered how many would want to be in a group photograph. It turned out to be too many or it to be taken in the gallery so out we plunged into a mild November afternoon on the pavement outside. The photo session and chatting afterwards lasted about fifteen minutes with no hint of a problem from the public (who mainly seemed concerned with taking their own photos). After a couple of minutes you totally forgot that you were there without a stitch on or a pair of shoes.
The whole event was a massive success with lots of old friends. It gave you a good feeling about the naturist movement in general. It was about people who are proud to be naturist and not scared for the world to know it.